Caracas, Mar 31 (EFE).- Dina walks slowly down the middle of a street without vehicles banging on the back of a empty plastic container with a stick. She moves toward a crowd that has begun to gather a short distance ahead on the Plaza de Altamira in Caracas.
“I’m not going to leave, it’s the second time I’ve gone out (on the street), but today I said enough,” said the 52-year-old woman as she kept walking, still banging on the plastic container like a drum.
Dina Dornela lost her patience on Sunday when she was waiting at the florist’s shop where she works for the latest power blackout to end and she noticed that the lack of electricity was not affecting everyone equally.
“I saw that in the restaurant that faces on the shop there was light and I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said in a calm, but indignant voice, never ceasing to beat on her makeshift drum.
Like Dina, residents in different parts of the capital on Sunday began to gather in small groups here and there to turn the day of rest into the day of the first protests after seven consecutive days of continuing electricity supply problems amid the umpteenth blackout.
“Why don’t people come out like in ’89, when there was 1/2 percent of all this?” she asked indignantly, recalling the social eruption known as the “Caracazo” – the wave of protests, riots, looting, shootings and massacres that began on Feb. 27, 1989, in Caracas and the surrounding towns during the government of Carlos Andres Perez.
Immediately, however, she answers her own question: “Because of the collectives” – the groups of armed Chavistas who attack demonstrators in the streets.
“Don’t think I’m not afraid, but here I am,” she said before joining the group of disgruntled citizens toward which she was heading.
The protests have spread from eastern Caracas into the western zones, including into Los Palos Grandes, el Cafetal, Coche, Catia and 23 de Enero, all residential areas of the spawling Venezuelan capital.
In the central part of the city, a few streets from Miraflores Palace, where President Nicolas Maduro lives, dozens of people blocked a downtown avenue with obstacles and set various things on fire in the road to halt traffic.
Until, that is, members of the collectives arrived and let off a few shots and the protesters started running, as EFE was able to verify.
But opposition sources have reported similar protests in other states such as Carabobo, Aragua, Lara and Zulia.
The protests are coming after a week of electricity supply problems starting with two power outages last Monday that have left the population of the Venezuelan capital largely without drinking water because there is no electricity to run the pumps.
The latest blackouts are coming when the country has barely managed to recover from another massive blackout on March 7, an outage that the Maduro government claimed was due to sabotage by the political opposition and the United States.
The opposition, however, says that the blackouts are caused by the government’s ineptitude, poor maintenance of the power facilities, corruption and diverting huge amounts of money and other resources that should have gone into the electricity grid to ensure its robustness.
The Maduro regime said that on March 7 the opposition mounted five alleged acts of sabotage, including “electromagnetic” attacks and using a sniper to knock the power grid offline.
But out on the street, nobody gives that theory any credence.
Jenny Cardenas picked up a rock and is banging a metal streetlight pole hard with it, showing her frustration, as if she wants to knock a hole in it.
“It can’t be! How long?” the dentist said, summing up her discontent over a situation she says she can’t take any longer.
“I have my children in the US and in Spain. This can’t be. I want them to return to work here. It can’t be!” she repeats over and over again without directly referring to the blackout and later going on to say that the country has deteriorated in recent years into the current “disaster.”
In front of Jenny, several people continue to join the group, adding their own banging of cooking pots and saucepans to the din of their anti-government slogans and chants.
Their numbers are still not great, but Jenny says that it doesn’t matter.
“You’ll see. They’re going to keep coming. You’ll see,” she said.